American First Responder Joint Service Order

DrillMasterColor Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training 4 Comments

Is this a “thing”?

I think so. My reasoning for the research and writing this article is to provide information that may be necessary for certain situations for American First Responders.

For the US military, we have our joint service order or military order of precedence:  Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. The order is based on the creation of the service and, in the case of the Navy, whether that service was continuously in service from that date.

For first responders (law enforcement, fire and EMS), there is a similar creation date here in the USA. In my research (wikipedia, unfotunately), I found the following information. Now, I understand that different agencies began in different areas at different times, my focus was on the first instance, the first paid positions in the US for that entity. If you have additional information, please let me know, I welcome it.

For joint service work, the order, in general, is: Law Enforcement, Fire, and EMS. This means that a color guard would look like this:

First Responder Joint Service Order
First Responder Joint Service Order

In the image above, you can see:

  • Right/Lead Rifle Guard- Law Enforcement Officer
  • US Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer
  • State Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer or Firefighter
    • In the military joint service color guard, pictured below, the Army has the honor of right rifle guard, carrying the American flag and then the Army flag and then each service flag after that. A state or other flag is never carried. So, my suggestion is to share the wealth, so to speak, for this position.
  • Law Enforcement Flag Bearer- Law Enforcement Officer
  • Firefighter Flag Bearer-  Firefighter
  • EMS Flag Bearer- EMS
  • Left/Trail Axe Guard- Firefighter
Military Joint Service Colors Order
Military Joint Service Colors Order

Service Creation Dates

Law Enforcement

  • The first Sheriff, 1626 in NY.
  • The first Police 1751 in various cities.
  • Marshal 1789 establishment of other federal police (Parks, Mint, etc.) followed.
  • Border Patrol, 1924.


  • While people have been fighting fires on their own or with neighbors since there has been things to protect, I found that the first paid firefighters came into existence in 1678. Having said that, I do not want this to be contentious as far as volunteers and paid firefighters.

Emergency Medical Service

  • The first EMS service came into existence in 1865.

A Good Question

Do you handle the lineup by grouping law enforcement together and always first and then firefighters followed by EMS? That would be the easiest, but not as accurate. A more accurate lineup would be to separate Sheriff, Police, etc. and have positions based on individual service beginning dates. The choice is yours.

Comments 4

  1. I have a question about multiple Color Guards marching separately in a parade setting and what the appropriate order of those Color Guards should be. For example: if there are U.S. Air Force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and local police department color guards, what should the order be? My interpretation was CBP (CBP ensign established in 1799), then USAF, then the local PD, but I am unsure and requesting some guidance in this matter. Thank you very much for your time.

    1. Post

      Ms. Spitznagle,

      This is a great question! If the three color guards are one right after the other, then federal agencies in order: DHS and then USAF, and then state agencies. If the teams are dispersed throughout the parade lineup, the order doesn’t matter, but you can use what I’ve written here. It sounds like I need to write an article about this and include everyone possible to ensure dissemination of this info.

  2. I like the concept of ordering agencies by their individual founding dates. Is there any concern or consideration for that leading to a fire service member as lead guard? I’d think not, aside from the more traditional approach of having the lead guard with a rifle.

    1. Post

      Hi Ben,

      There shouldn’t be a concern as long as everyone understands the reasoning behind the order. However, personality issues (arrogance, pride, etc.) can get in the way.


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